WESTFIELD, Ind. – The Indianapolis Colts’ receivers room is congested and competitive.
Good luck to Chris Ballard, Frank Reich and the personnel staff when Aug. 31 rolls around and the 90-player training camp roster must be pared to 53, and when the 13 wideouts must be whittled to four, five, perhaps six for the Sept. 8 season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers.
“Yeah, I think those guys are competing,’’ offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said after Sunday’s workout at Grand Park Sports Campus. “I can’t say enough how much Kevin Patullo has been able to develop his position group. I see development big time, particularly with Reece Fountain and Marcus Johnson. Deon Cain is coming along now.
“I don’t want to miss anybody, but they’re all competing there for all those positions, all those two, three, four, five, six positions.’’
Might Sirianni approach Ballard and lobby for the Colts to retain six receivers?
“No, he knows what he is doing,’’ he said with a laugh.
In that delicate numbers game – how many to keep at each position? – the Colts almost certainly will carry five receivers. Six is a definite possibility, and Nos. 5-6 would need to be heavily involved on special teams.
As the Colts head into their final week of camp work, three wideouts are locks: T.Y. Hilton, Devin Funchess and rookie Parris Campbell. Campbell has missed the last nine practices with a hamstring injury, but Ballard took him in the second round of April’s draft for a reason.
Returnees Chester Rogers and Zach Pascal are in the midst of solid camps, as are Cain and Fountain, a pair of 2018 draft picks.
Fountain led Colts receivers with five catches for 63 yards in the opening loss at Buffalo, which was a continuation of his emergence during training camp. He had at least two highlight catches during Saturday’s practice. On one, Fountain battled with rookie corner Rock Ya-Sin and finally secured a ball that had been batted in the air. On the other, he snared a pass between two defensive backs.
Fountain was back at it Sunday. Despite being blanketed by safety George Odom and corner Jalen Collins along the right sideline, he came up with the reception.
Those have been more the rule than the exception for Fountain, who spent much of his rookie season on the practice squad.
“Really what I’m really impressed with Reece is that he’s starting to show more consistency,’’ Sirianni said. “He’s got that body that you want from a receiver. He’s big, strong and physical.’’
Fountain is 6-2, 210.
“Now he’s starting to get a little quicker,’’ Sirianni said. “Now he’s being a little quicker out of the break and he’s doing a good job of catching contested balls. It just takes getting some separation in there that gets you yards after catches.
“Now, we’re not fully getting to see it in practice because we are not tackling, but I’m excited to keep throwing him the ball and get some run-and-catch for him for the games coming.’’
Cain also is a front-runner for a roster spot. His rookie season ended when he suffered a torn ACL in the preseason opener at Seattle.
“I think he’s coming along,’’ Sirianni said. “I could see it a little bit. It’s his confidence that he’s building in his injury. Early on I would say he was about what I expected. Right now, he’s surprising me.
“He’s exceeding my expectations I guess you could say so far. I really just see that confidence growing in him.’’
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention T.Y. Hilton has been the best offensive player on the field throughout camp. Although the offense has lacked rhythm with Jacoby Brissett filling in for Andrew Luck, Hilton continually has beaten coverage, gotten open and made catches, easy and otherwise.
Competition for No. 3 QB
Brissett is the no-doubt No. 2 QB, but uncertainty exists after that between Phillip Walker and Chad Kelly.
Kelly seemed to take more of the reps with the second unit Sunday. That came on the heels of a strong performance at Buffalo: 13-of-19 for 121 passing yards, 53 yards on four rushes, including a 33-yard touchdown.
“Yeah, they know they’re in a competition,’’ Sirianni said. “Early in camp we were rotating the periods and felt like Phil had a little advantage. Phil started taking them and now we are back to rotating again.
“So they’re competing. Chad played a really good game, he really did. Phil knows he wants to play better. Had played a really good game. He made a lot of plays out there sometimes when they weren’t even available to make. He was good improvising.’’
One issue to keep in mind when it comes to Kelly: he has been suspended for the first two games of the season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
The team signed cornerback Isaiah Langley and waived tight end Zach Conque.
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